By Joseph Staszewski
Hurricane Sandy has left the Scholars Academy girls’ basketball team out of its home without a home court and down two players.
The two-time defending PSAL Class B city champions hope to return to the Rockaway Park school, which took heavy damages during the storm, when it plans to reopen at the beginning of the new year. Until then the players, many of whom were forced out of their Rockaway homes, are bused to and from William Maxwell in Brooklyn for school.
After school they carpool to Far Rockaway High School — the only school of 17 contacted by Scholars that would let them use a gym — for practice from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. It has taken its toll on the girls.
“They look to me a bit more fatigued,” Kleiner said. “They have been through so much; not just to their school, but to their homes and their families’ homes.”
Practices began Nov. 20, three weeks after teams were allowed to start. One player, Serena Yannello, makes that commute and then heads to her aunt’s house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Klein said a number of the girls do similar trips.
The damage has caused Scholars’ first six league games to be postponed and they will have to be crammed in next year. Schools like Beach Channel and Far Rockaway have had similar postponements.
“It was completely ruined,” Kleiner said of the Scholars gym.
If Scholars does not reopen in time or if the gym clocks are not functional, Kleiner is hopeful to play home games at Far Rockaway and not spend extra time on the road. The Seawolves have three non-league games scheduled starting with John Adams Friday and open their league season Dec. 19 at Jamaica High School.
The Seawolves, who return stars Jessica Glaz and Taylor Gallagher, have just nine players on their roster. Seniors Kristin Henschel and Kayla Nolan both transferred to schools on Long Island where they are currently living after being displaced by Sandy.
Through it all basketball has been an outlet for the girls. There has been a high energy at practice and Kleiner hopes the girls use all they have been through to further push them to success.
“There is an energy they somehow muster in themselves,” Kleiner said. “I just hope they find this to be just another motivating factor to do well this season.”